• Academic Philip Lane also said among short-listed candidates
  • Finance Minister Noonan may make decision within weeks

Ireland’s top official in the ministry for public expenditure and reform, Robert Watt, is among two final candidates being considered to lead the nation’s central bank, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

While Finance Minister Michael Noonan may make a recommendation to government as soon as this week, it’s more likely he will do so after the 2016 budget is delivered later this month, according to the person, who asked not to be identified, as deliberations are continuing. A finance ministry official declined to comment on the process or on Watt’s involvement.

Patrick Honohan, the current governor, was plucked from academia in 2009 to restore the institution’s credibility amid a real-estate and banking collapse. As he prepares to retire, Noonan faces a decision on appointing another outsider or returning to pre-crisis tradition of appointing within the civil service. The position also carries a seat on the European Central Bank Governing Council.

A selection panel drew a short-list of four candidates last week, according to another person. Along with Watt, Philip Lane, an economics professor at Trinity College Dublin, made the list, the person said, without identifying the other names.

Mary O’Dea, a former acting head of the Irish financial regulator who now works in the World Bank in Washington, may also be a candidate for the role, the Irish edition of U.K. newspaper The Times reported on Sept. 25.

Lane didn’t respond to calls seeking comment, while O’Dea declined to comment.

Honohan is exiting as the government forecasts 6.2 percent economic growth this year. Still, his successor faces challenges, including rising long-term mortgage arrears, a troubled insurance industry and an outflow of central bank officials over the past two years

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